The Ongoing War On Women: Where Are We?

The GOP is still trying to figure out how it will return to?dominance on a national scale after the 2012 elections. Some believe that they should have run a presidential candidate that was less of a cross between George F. Babbitt and C. Montgomery Burns, and more of a populist firebrand. Others believe that it was the Republican platform itself that lost the election?that the party has become too extreme and, consequently, cannot form a winning coalition of increasingly vital demographics. Still others, like Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, believe that the real problem is that the Republicans have to stop being the “stupid party.?

As the author Danilo Kis once noted, “Stupidity combined with ambition is more dangerous than insanity.”

This line of reasoning leads us to the other option?that the problem is that the party has not become extreme enough, and that it needs to push for legislation that will ultimately alienate all but the staunchest conservatives. Unfortunately, this seems to be the choice that many Republican-leaning state legislators are taking.

There are more than a few bills floating around several state capitols that exemplify this. Many of these proposed bills deal with issues such as eliminating regulations of our increasingly well-armed populace; removing evolution from classrooms; promoting racial profiling; wrestling power from unions; and standing up to the scourge of Sharia law. Some of laws and potential referendums also reveal the new, and perhaps most important front in the War on Women.

North Dakota’s String of Anti-Choice Bills

Unlike the numerous referendums to restrict marriage rights during the 2004 election, personhood bills do not persuade swing voters to support the GOP. This was discovered in Colorado (twice, in 2008 and 2010) and in Mississippi in 2011. A recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that a majority of Americans?63 percent?want to keep Roe V. Wade on the books.

Even if many Americans believe that life begins at conception, they don’t feel that this belief should be codified into law. As Gallup polls dating back to 1975 reveal, less than a quarter of Amerheartbeaticans have ever felt that all abortion should be made illegal.

The Republicans of North Dakota, however, feel different. On March 22, the state became the first to pass a personhood amendment to their constitution. The bill, SCR 4009, will effectively ban all abortions in the state. It is expected to come before voters in 2014.

Even if this push for a personhood amendment fails, North Dakota’s Governor, Jack Dalrymple, has already signed three rigidly anti-choice bills into law, including one that seems to take direct aim at the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, which is the state’s sole abortion clinic. Another bill defines life as beginning when a ?can be detected. By using a trans-vaginal ultrasound, a heartbeat can be detected at 6 weeks. An abdominal ultrasound can detect one in 12?weeks. The law is unclear which method, if any, must be used.

If they are not overturned by the courts, both laws will go into effect on August 1.

Domestic Violence and Gun Laws

One of the most ridiculous stories to appear in 2011 came from Topeka, Kansas. Due to budget cuts, the City Council voted to repeal the city’s misdemeanor domestic battery law. The decision both horrified and absolutely confounded virtually anyone who heard about it, and it was quickly overturned. The idea that one could engage in domestic abuse and suffer no consequences was not a pill that any rational person could swallow.

This is the type of principle that anyone on the political spectrum respects: if a person harms another person, that person should be punished. Furthermore, the victim should be protected. In order to assure the safety of a victim of domestic violence, a protective order should be issued by the court.

It, therefore, comes as something of surprise that, as the New York Times reported in March 2013, many states do not require abusive individuals to forfeit their weapons. They have proven themselves to violent and unstable, yet they are allowed to keep their weapons due to an excessive amount of lobbying by groups like the NRA. What seems hypocritical about this situation is that felons are not allowed to have weapons for the very same reason: they are deemed too violent and unstable to appreciate the responsibility required of a gun owner.

This poses a severe threat to women, as they are far more often than not the victims of domestic violence, and, as the Times reported in the same article, that homicides connected to domestic disputes usually involve a firearm. Effective gun regulations to restrict the rights of those guilty of domestic abuse is, therefore, mandatory if any state is serious about protecting women and preventing predictable tragedies. Unfortunately, with the lobbying muscle of the NRA on full display in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, this may prove to be an uphill battle.

As the author Danilo Kis once noted, “Stupidity combined with ambition is more dangerous than insanity.” This quip defines today’s Republican party with regards to its policies toward women, and with the GOP’s belief that they lost the election because the party has not become extreme enough. While the GOP has never been particularly accommodating to numerous issues that exclusively affect women, there has been a spike in legislation in Republican-dominated state capitols that is far more pernicious and extreme than ever before.

These laws and potential referendums?have become the most?important front in the War on Women. And while there are many facets to this war, the two most prominent concern abortion rights and access to affordable contraceptives.

Anti-Choice Bills Flooding State Capitols

Unlike the numerous referendums to restrict marriage rights during the 2004 election, personhood bills do not persuade swing voters to support the GOP. This was discovered in Colorado (twice, in 2008 and 2010) and in Mississippi in 2011. A recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that a majority of Americans — 3 percent — want to keep Roe v. Wade on the books.

Even if many Americans believe that life begins at conception, they don’t feel that this belief should be codified into law. As Gallup polls dating back to 1975 reveal, less than a quarter of Americans have ever felt that all abortion should be made illegal.

In other words, attempting to abolish abortion rights is not feasible on the national level. It is, however, in some states.

As of April 12, there were 326 bills introduced in 2013 to restrict or outlaw abortion, with six states currently considering “personhood” amendments to their constitutions:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina

North Dakota may be the most extreme?of all of these states. On March 22, the state became the first to pass a personhood amendment to their constitution. The bill, SCR 4009, will effectively ban all abortions in the state. It is expected to come before voters in 2014.

Even if this push for a personhood amendment fails, North Dakota’s Governor, Jack Dalrymple, has already signed three rigidly anti-choice bills into law, including one that takes direct aim at the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, which is the state’s sole abortion clinic. Seven states, including North Dakota, have either approved or are likely to approve such TRAP laws (Targeted Restrictions of Abortion Providers).

Yet another North Dakota bill defines life as beginning when a heartbeat?can be detected. By using a transvaginal ultrasound, a heartbeat can be detected at 6 weeks. An abdominal ultrasound can detect one in 12 weeks. The law is unclear which method, if any, must be used. What is clear is that it is even stricter than the law recently passed in Arkansas to ban all abortions taking place 12 weeks after pregnancy.

If the fight in North Dakota to overturn these laws fails, both will go into effect on August 1.
Limiting Access to Birth Control

Yet another issue to arise in the War on Women concerns a woman’s right to affordable contraceptives. Several private companies maintain that they should not be obligated to pay for contraception, most notably:

  • Hobby Lobby
  • Walmart
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Eden Foods

However, the bigger concern may be coming not from employers, but from statehouses. Several states, including Ohio, Texas and Montana, among others, have decided to slash spending to Planned Parenthood, which supplies many women with affordable contraception.

Arkansas, not to be outdone, has opted to cut off all funding. As reported by Reuters:

“While it does not explicitly name Planned Parenthood or any other organization, the bill would bar all Arkansas state funds from going to any en
tity that provides abortions, refers patients to abortion providers or contracts with any group that does so.

The bill [would also] effectively cut off funding for domestic violence shelters or rape crisis centers that also happen to offer abortion referrals.”

Though GOP lawmakers may assert that their efforts stem from a desire to make certain that no tax dollars go to funding abortions, such a position ignores the fact that, due to the Hyde Amendment, Planned Parenthood does not use tax dollars to fund abortion services. And, as only 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood relate to abortions, the actions of the GOP only starve an organization that, as of 2010, spent 97 percent of its resources on services such as sex education, gynecological exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings and contraception.

 

Jay Fox is a writer living in Brooklyn. The Walls, ?his debut novel, was published by Stay Thirsty Press in 2011. Jay earned a Bachelor’s degree in?Philosophy?and History at New York University.?

Editor: SB